Thursday, March 16, 2017

Netflix Ruins Storytelling

(Yes, I realize that this photo is not of Netflix. Let's move on with our lives!)

Netflix is poised to ruin storytelling. FOREVER.

Am I being melodramatic? You tell me: starting next season, Netflix will shoot multiple endings to their original programs, and viewers will get to decide how the story ends.

Okay, so there is an element of cool here: it's Choose Your Own Adventure! Neat!

But my first reaction was a big old "NOOOOOOOO!"

One of the HUGE values of storytelling is the ability to help us see new perspectives and follow an imagined situation to its (potentially unexpected) conclusion. Sometimes we get to see how things magically work out and everyone's dreams come true. Other times we get to see how everything falls apart. Both are important realities to experience, if only vicariously.

Living through a story that someone else wrote, especially one that really grabs you and brings you into its world and characters, is also an important exercise in experiencing something without controlling it. There is much we cannot control in life. We can't make someone forgive us, hire us, or let us win. We can't make things go our way - and we shouldn't be able to do this.

One could argue that because there is so little we can control in life, why not let us live an imaginary life of control through our stories? Why not indulge in the fantasy a little?

Sure, that would be great, once in a while. The problem is that the internet is already doing that for us: we live in a world that is an increasingly powerful echo chamber of our own opinions and perspectives. What we see on Facebook, Google, and Netflix is curated based on what we already like and agree with. It's getting harder and harder to step outside of our own comfort zones and explore a perspective different from our own.

Sometimes it's painful and disappointing, but it is incredibly important for our egos to not be able to control everything and shape each story to fit our worldview.

So don't do it, Netflix! Don't join the ranks of those who are shaping our brains to think that everything will always go the way we want it to! Don't help us curate our experiences to be just what we want and take away our opportunities to experience something wildly outside ourselves! Don't feed into our illusion of control!


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